Impact of epileptic power supply on small businesses

By Esther Onah & Comfort Agbaji

Poor electricity supply has been a knotty issue in many parts of Nigeria, leaving citizens to source for alternative sources of power. Electricity consumers pay huge bills, that do not  commensurate to what they use.

Despite being the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria has not been able to generate power  sufficient for its over 200 million population.

According to Premium Times, in a quarterly report published by the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Company (NERC), the eleven distribution companies (DisCos), in Nigeria received a total of 204, 506 complaints from customers in the first quarter of 2020 and another 203, 116 complaints in the second quarter, a total of 407, 622 complaints in the first half of 2020.

The complaints centred on service Interruption, poor voltage, load shedding, metering, estimated billing, delayed connection, among others. The statistics showed that the DisCos received an average of 2,247 and 2,232 complaints per day in the first and second quarter, respectively.

Despite the huge potentials to generate power in Nigeria with a capacity of 12,522 mega watts, the country has not been able to generate enough power for its millions of households.

A Makurdi based business man, who prefers to be addressed as “grade A” customer, says, “It is disappointing that we are not satisfied with the daily supply given to us. We spend heavily on petrol and diesel whose prices have gone up drastically. This has affected our finances; couple with the noise and air pollution when we turn on our generators”.

“It has been terrible, we have been suffering”, Miss Okolie said. According to a producer of ice block,  “the transformer in my area is not good, making the power supply to go from bad to worse, we have complained and nothing is being done”.

Also, a resident of Bambam area, behind the Makurdi Modern Market, Mr Adakole said, “most times there is power supply but so low that it is even better for them not to have given the light and even when there is power supply, before you know it,  the fluctuations damage our expensive electrical appliances. It has been consistently low voltage and fluctuations here and there”.

Many equipment need to be changed or upgraded to newer ones with bigger capacities to meet up with the increasing population. People are losing money, many businesses are suffering, the impact is crazy on the economy of the people who have to rely on diesel to power their appliances.

The impact of this epileptic power supply on small businesses in this country and Benue State in particular is enormous. Being perceived as an important contributor to economic growth and development, small businesses are now increasing, they make significant contributions towards job creation and the provision of low cost goods and services but the case is different today.

Over the last decades, there have been a number of changes in the way global business is conducted, the changes which include the liberalization of trade, expansion of regional economic integrations and advances in formation communication. While these changes have taken place, the importance of small businesses still remains an integral component of the overall economic activities.

Epileptic power supply is a situation where there are poor power outages in an area over a given period of time which at times, takes the form of low voltage, when there is supply at all. This can arise from either the generating or transmitting end, but it is ultimately felt at the utilizing end; and any nation that is always confronted with an irregular supply of electricity is always retarded in development and risk to investors.

Small business owners as well as manufacturers have complained that any interruption in electricity supply is bound to have negative effects on their output, there is no one in our socio economic life that is not affected by the electricity supply in the country today.

Further investigations reveal that many urban cities around Benue, though connected to the national gride are not witnessing steady power supply, light comes on in bulbs looking just like candle light and can hardly charge battery of mobile phones.

Owners of small businesses continue to cry out over this. Mr. Okonlei, a welder along Naka road says, “more worrisome is the imposition of high tariffs, even when the energy is not readily available for use”.

An iron welder at the high level area of Makurdi, who pleaded anonymity, said that the management of Jos Electricity Distribution Company, (JEDC), has been giving him estimated bills even when there has been load shedding in his shop and he uses generator, which takes not less than 30 litres of fuel on daily basis to accomplish the day’s job.

A cold room owner and dealer in frozen foods, Mr. Augustine Agbeje, said, life and business has not been easy and he recently lost stock worth N30 million due to epileptic power supply. He however, called on government to intervene in stabilizing power supply in the country and save the business community from the hands of exploitative managers of power, adding that it has not been easy using alternative sources.

“I pay not less than N15, 000 monthly as estimated bills, I have been disturbing the power company to supply me with prepaid meter to no avail, I am getting tired of estimated bills.

These are indications that the inadequate, epileptic and unstable nature of power supply has affected small businesses, thus, creating more unemployment and poverty and government policies on the promotion of small businesses cannot be effective due to poor electricity supply in the country.

Agbaji is an intern from the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo.

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